Jumanji: The Next Level
When Spencer (Alex Wolff) gets transported into the Jumanji video game, his friends, Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) transport themselves inside the game to search for him. Eddie (Danny DeVito), Spencer's grandfather, and his friend, Milo Walker (Danny Glover), also get transported. Milo becomes a zoologist, Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), Eddie becomes an archaeologist, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge turns into a cartographer, Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Each of them has only three lives to find Spencer while going through life-threatening obstacles along the way.
Jumanji: The Next Level is Writer/director Jake Kasdan and co-writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg blend comedy and action/adventure with some thrilling set pieces, but the film becomes tiresome and tedious with only a few surprises. Some of the humor is witty, i.e., Mouse's aversion to cakes, but for the most part it's more silly and lazy than funny. The screenwriters ought to be commended, though for incorporating exposition effectively, so those audience members who haven't seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or don't remember the rules won't be confused. There are a few scenes, though, that nearly derail the film because of schmaltzy dialogue that tries to add poignancy, but in a rather contrived and clunky way.
What keeps it from being completely dull, though, are the lively performances. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Awkwafina have a lot of fun in their roles, and it shows. They have great chemistry together, and the banter between their characters is amusing at times. It's too bad, then, that they don't have a more clever and funny screenplay to work with; it's as though the filmmakers were trying to please everybody too hard without taking enough chances to include something that doesn't play it safe. Also, Jumanji: The Next Level overstays its welcome with a running time of 123 minutes. Trimming 20 minutes would've made it flow better and not drag toward the end. Ultimately, it's a mildly entertaining diversion not as fun and surprising as the original, but the lively performances come to the rescue to invigorate the film.